Friday the 13th: Day of fear or fun?
Some people think today isn't a good day to cross the path of a black cat or launch a new venture. Thet say Friday the 13th is 24 hours of bad luck, the darkest day, and they have folkloric tradition to back them up.
But it's not bad luck for everyone.
Some movie moguls, for example, have made money out of the phobia and fear. Producers have chosen that day to launch horror stories, such as the "Friday the 13th" series. Today, the end-of-the-world film "2012" debuts.
For those who like to name their phobias, "paraskevidekatriaphobia" and "triskaidekaphobia" are words for the Friday the 13th phobia.
Chanah Wizenberg, who runs MetroWest Tarot Meet-up and Divinatory Arts Meet-up (www.wisewomantarot.com), and has an eclectic background in Judaism, Paganism, and Buddhism (and now, the "reclaiming tradition") said there are several theories explaining why society came to have superstitions about Friday the 13th.
"Nobody's certain for sure which is the real one, but the one I gravitate to is about paganism and Christianity," said Wizenberg.
In general, Fridays are viewed in a negative light within the church because Jesus was crucified on a Friday, she said.
Early Christian leaders promoted the number 13 as being unlucky, she said, because pagans, whom they sought to vilify in order to convert people to Christianity, believed it to be auspicious.
"Pagans believe 13 to be lucky because there are 13 lunar cycles in a year - they see it as something very powerful. Pagans still feel very in tune with the universe on that day," Wizenberg said.
In numerology, however, 13 is unlucky, because 12 is considered to be complete: there are 12 hours in a clock, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 tribes of Israel, etc., Wizenberg said.
Waltham, Mass., resident Jesse Johnson said, "It doesn't make me nervous, but my grandfather died on Friday the 13th just before I was born. So I always notice when they come around and think about him."
Arthur Schwartz, a professional hypnotherapist and philosophical counselor in Newton, Mass., said he is not a superstitious person, but he's "very, very open-minded in terms of the paranormal."
And he doesn't believe Friday the 13th is different from any other day, he said.
"My mom was born on a Friday the 13th, and I'm the luckiest guy in the world because my mother had me," Schwartz said.
As a hypnotherapist, Schwartz said he knows the power of strong belief -- including superstitions -- and that they can be self-fulfilling prophecies.
"If you believe strange things happen on a full moon, it just might happen. The expectation factor is very, very powerful," Schwartz said.
Trish Flynn, an Arlington, Mass., resident who is a member of an Eastern philosophy group in Waltham, said she thinks superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th "are like magical thinking."
She believes it gives people a sense of control.
"To me (superstitions are) like the placebo effect. People will say they don't believe in it, but then they won't step on a crack or step behind a ladder - they still have avoidance behaviors," said Flynn.
Still, she said, "I guess it's fun."
Wizenberg personally doesn't put any stock in any of the superstitions, she said, adding, "but I know plenty of people who do."
"People follow the myths and superstitions surrounding Friday the 13th to the point where it affects what they're going to do that day," Wizenberg said.
Wizenberg joked that she prefers spending the day observing people doing foolish things.
"It never ceases to amaze me how the human mind likes to create a story. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - you expect things to go wrong, and then they turn out that way," she said.
"Growing up, I had a friend born on Oct. 13, on a Friday, and she loved Friday the 13th. She always had terrific days on Friday the 13th," Wizenberg said.
Daily News Tribune writer Joyce Kelly can be reached at 781-398-8005 or email@example.com.